Public Policy and the Past: British social democracy in crisis

Most politics commentary is impoverished in two ways. It is geographically parochial and temporally anachronistic. It can see neither the big view nor the long view. It is obsessed with the latest rivalries, the newest personalities, the most novel ups and downs. So the Labour Party’s deep travails focus on the struggle between its MPs and leader. On the latest reshufflings within constituency parties or in the National Executive Committee. Whatever today’s latest bit of shouting involves.

But zoom back, and Labour is actually in the grip of an acute crisis within social democracy itself. And these apparently-insoluble dilemmas are not happening in Britain alone. The Greek Socialists were wiped out by that country’s financial crisis. The Dutch Labour Party took a tremendous beating last week. The French Socialists are about to lose the presidency, either to a charismatic centrist or to the far right. At its base, social democratic coalitions have always tried to reach out to everyone (above) – professional people, working people, the young, the old, men and women, all nations within a state – because social progress is thought to benefit everyone. More recently, this has increasingly come to mean finding the glue that will stick the instincts of liberal urban dwellers to more socially conservative voters in small and medium-sized towns. For a number of reasons – large-scale immigration, rapid cultural change, a yawning age gap in the attitudes of the generations, stagnating wages, you name it – those links are coming apart.  It may not be possible to hold them together for much longer.
wages, you name it – those links are coming apart.  It may not be possible to hold them together for much longer.

Source: Public Policy and the Past

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